Time to Travel Series-Passports

By now everyone keen on travelling internationally knows how important a passport is. And if you assume the hassle of getting a new passport or renewing one in Ghana for example is too much, wait till you travel and reality hits you in the face.

You will soon find, getting a passport is half the battle and in fact all passports are not equal. It is one thing knowing why, when and how to travel, but having the “right” passport, makes a huge difference. Let me explain, if you are travelling on a Ghanaian passport like I do, chances are, immigration officials in say Europe might ask you a lot of questions before you are allowed entry and sometimes detain you just to see how you behave, recheck your story and maybe have a case to deny you entry.

Racial profiling is a thing. A big thing. Certain countries have been labelled as high risk countries; where it is assumed that as a citizen of a high risk country, you are likely to emigrate to “a well off country economically” or you might be laundering money or carrying illicit drugs or might be prone to acts of terrorism. And some of us have zero intention of all these scenarios.

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Please don’t assume that when you have old passports clipped together as they do in Ghana, you are immune. Sometimes the scrutiny is even worse. It feels like you cannot win. Immigration officials sometimes wonder and ask you why you travel so much, as if travel is just something African’s don’t do. If you have no travel experience, they suspect you are not coming back. I am beginning to feel some immigration officials are just jealous and wonder why they get to touch so many passports and don’t get to explore as many countries as some of us do. But, let me also point out that, it almost feels like a curse when you travel by road across most African borders on a well-traveled passport.

They hassle you and sometimes it is because they want a bribe, because they know how valuable your passport is to you. I have experienced this at land borders in Togo, Ivory Coast, Benin, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique and I have documented some of these experiences. The smoothest border crossing I have experienced by road in Africa so far was in Swaziland and Zimbabwe. It was so smooth; I was pleasantly surprised.

Crossing borders can be a pain regardless of the passport you carry. I feel sometimes Americans and most Europeans have no idea the hassle we have to go through when we Africans have to travel in Africa and out of Africa. I haven’t seen every country in the world and I know how thirsty my Ghanaian passport is, but I don’t plan to see every country. I have done well for all the travels I have persevered to do. I am allowed to say so myself, because I know what I have endured. I know citizens of countries like India, Indonesia, Iran and even Nigeria have it worse.

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There are some countries that have a lot of respect for Ghanaians and I have been treated well in those countries, but just crossing the borders to experience the place and people was a real pain. My advice to you is to cross borders with a smile, where you can. Be bold and confident and have a tonne of patience. The travel life is not easy, but it is a beautiful life. Get your passport or renew yours before it is too late. Even better let us improve our countries so others will respect our countries, citizens and passports.

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